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If I've heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times:  "I don't care if [co-worker/subordinate/colleague] doesn't like me - I'm not here to make friends.  I'm here to make money."

While it's true that you don't have to be - and probably shouldn't be - best friends with the people you manage in the workplace, the reality is that it's hard to make a lot of money if everyone you work with thinks you're a jerk.  Take a look at the most successful people you know, and you'll see that 95% of the time, those people are experts at building positive professional relationships.

Why are good relationships so important?  For some roles, good relationships have obvious benefits:  Salespeople, for example, do best when they are adept at building positive, long-term relationships with almost everyone they encounter.  They'll sell more when they develop strong relationships with their clients; they'll get better access to those clients when they develop friendly relationships with their clients' gatekeepers (such as receptionists, assistants, etc.); and they'll have better success at keeping those clients when they build good relationships with the people responsible for post-sale customer service within their own organization.

But cohesive relationships deliver benefits to people in non-sales roles, as well - and in all kinds of ways.  Good relationships mean:

  • Your initiatives are more readily championed by people outside your department
  • Your particular area of expertise is accorded more respect within the organization (this is particularly valuable for roles in areas like HR or marketing, which are often not taken seriously by counterparts in the purchasing or finance departments)
  • Your subordinates are more willing to go the extra mile to support your initiatives or goals
  • You're more likely to get promoted because you're perceived as a 'team player' who can build consensus - and get things done

...all of which contribute to your stated goal of 'making more money'.

(Yes, there are some independent geniuses who manage to become successful despite having difficulty building positive professional relationships.  But how likely is it that you're the next Steve Jobs?)

So how can you ensure that you're building good relationships in the workplace, without spending your whole day chit-chatting with co-workers?  Just follow some simple guidelines:

Understand how you're being perceived.  I've worked with many people who think they're well-liked by co-workers and subordinates - but who are actually regarded as being aloof or overbearing.  You may think that your refusal to join the team for a Friday lunch makes you look like a hard worker, but the reality may be that it's making you look like you don't like anyone you work with.  Ask a trusted colleague or two for some honest feedback.

See the other side.  The best investment you can make in building relationships is to take the time to see the world from others' point of view.  Before you dismiss an idea or proposal, consider where the idea is coming from.  Is it possible that the person putting forth the proposal is seeing things from a new - and different - perspective?  Taking the time to put yourself in someone else's shoes may yield a fantastic insight or opportunity.  At the very least, it'll make you look like the kind of person who is interested in others - and that's an excellent way to build relationships.

Positive feedback is more effective than negative confrontation.  Almost everyone works better - and harder - when they feel they're being appreciated rather than horsewhipped into compliance.  Criticism doesn't deliver better results, and it doesn't provide the opportunity for the kind of positive interactions that lead to strong relationships.  And a sincere 'thank you' for a job well done will be remembered for longer than you think.

Be generous.  Doing a favor for a colleague today - whether it's spending a little extra time to put together some numbers for a project they're working on, or agreeing to provide a college reference for their son or daughter - may not deliver an ROI in the short term, but are the building blocks of a strong long-term relationship that can deliver tremendous benefits down the line.

Remember, your career is a long-term endeavor, and your professional world is smaller than you think.  Investing in positive relationships is a little like making sure you save a little bit of your salary every month:  it doesn't seem like much on a daily basis, but over time it adds up and makes a huge difference.

Published in News
Thursday, 14 February 2013 04:43

It's Okay to Need a Coach, Part 2

Coaching isn't just for senior executives: 

Last time, we talked about how engaging a coach to help improve professional performance isn't a sign of weakness, and that all super-successful people use coaches to help them excel, whether at work or at the Olympics.

But you don't have to be an Olympic-level player to benefit from professional coaching.

Many of us think that 'executive coaching' is only for very senior executives who need to be groomed for top positions.  In fact, almost everyone can benefit from coaching - as long as it's tailored to your career stage and level.

You know that if you want to move to each 'next level' in your profession, you're going to have to commit to ongoing learning:  You may need to take courses, update certifications, participate in seminars or workshops, or take on new challenges that force you to learn all kinds of new things.

Coaching can be a helpful part of this process.  For example:

  • If you're in your mid-to-late 20s and are transitioning from junior management to middle management, coaching can help you project a more confident demeanor that reduces concerns that you're 'too young' for a promotion
  • If you're at a middle-management level, coaching can help address the gaps that may be preventing a move to the next level (i.e. if you haven't yet had hands-on experience with managing a large, diverse team or if you're better known for implementation than strategic planning)
  • If you find yourself stalled at midlevel within an organization, coaching can help you reboot or reposition in order to drive momentum

In other words, you may engage a coach in your 20s to help you formulagte a plan for the next 3-5 years; engage a coach in your early 30s to help take you to the next level; then engage a coach in your late 30s to give your career another boost.

The idea isn't to have to engage a coach for 20 years straight, but to access coaching just as you would any other professional development or learning opportunity.


Published in News
Sunday, 27 January 2013 06:43

It's Okay to Need a Coach, Part 1

It's like a personal trainer for your career

It's funny:  We know that successful athletes rely on coaches (sometimes a whole team of them) in order to become good enough to compete at the Olympics - heck, many of us engage personal trainers or nutritionists in order to improve our physical health or bolster our motivation.  But when it comes to our professional health, we often reject - or don't even consider - engaging a coach to help us improve our performance at work.

personal trainer for your career

But here's the truth:  Ask anyone who's been really successful in their work lives and they'll tell you that, somewhere along the way, they asked for help.  Maybe they had a mentor to work closely with; maybe they hired a media trainer; maybe they went to Toastmasters to learn how to speak confidently in front of a group.  What none of them did was assume that they could reach the top all on their own.

So why don't more of us think of engaging a coach when we're ready to take the next step in our careers, or when we're concerned our career growth is stalling and don't know why?

Because we tend to think that asking for help with our professional performance means that we aren't working hard enough or smart enough; we see other people making it look easy and we think that if we just come in a little earlier or stay a little later, maybe we'll finally be recognized for the geniuses we really are.

Sure, working smarter and harder can make you stand out from the crowd.  But it's not enough.

For many people, the biggest barrier to the success they crave lies in the 'perception gap' - the gap between how they see themselves and how they are perceived by their colleagues and managers.  For example, a director-level employee may think s/he is overachieving because s/he has exceeded sales targets for the past 3 years in a row, and is understandably confused as to why a promotion hasn't yet been forthcoming; his/her managers, however, may be reluctant to grant the promotion because they have concerns over the director's ability to manage a larger team effectively.

This is where engaging a professional coach can make a big difference.  The right coach can:

  1. Help identify perception gaps, and offer solutions on how those gaps might be closed
  2. Provide more objective (and possibly honest) feedback than a person might get from a direct report, co-worker, or even a manager
  3. Offer a sounding board - don't underestimate the value of having someone with whom to talk through some of your career goals, concerns and frustrations
  4. Offer suggestions around books to read, exercises to do, and professional development opportunities which can either provide new skills, new perspectives or new horizons
  5. Help you understand whether your current job will in fact provide you with the career path you really want - or whether you need to make a move

And remember:  Just like no one had to know you hired a golf pro to help you brush up before the big corporate tournament, no one has to know you hired a coach to help you be a superstar at work!


Published in News


Beth Banks Cohn, PhD, founder and president of ADRA Change Architects, is dedicated to helping you and your organization reach your full business potential…
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